Scientists urge veto of Michigan moose hunting bill
By JOHN FLESHER
AP Environmental Writer
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – A group of scientists mounted a
last-ditch effort Monday to derail legislation that could lead to
moose hunting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, contending too little
is known about the size of the herd and its long-term prospects for
Rolf Peterson, a Michigan Tech University moose expert, and 13
other biologists at Michigan universities sent a letter to Gov.
Jennifer Granholm urging a veto of a bill that would create a panel
to study the matter and recommend whether to allow the hunts. The
measure cleared the Legislature this month with little
Granholm had not signed the measure as of Monday but plans to do
so, spokeswoman Katie Carey said, adding that she didn’t know
whether the scientists’ eleventh-hour appeal would sway the
outgoing Democratic governor.
Wildlife managers believe roughly 500 moose wander Michigan’s
far north but acknowledge it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number of
the elusive mammals. Peterson said the herd has reached only about
half the total anticipated in the mid-1980s, when officials hauled
59 moose from Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, to
western Marque tte County in hopes of establishing a population
that eventually could be hunted.
The moose are “seriously challenged by ecological conditions,”
the scientists’ letter said. “Decisions about whether or how to
hunt moose in Michigan should be delayed until an independent
scientific panel comprised of appropriate experts evaluates the
Sen. Jason Allen, a Traverse City Republican who sponsored the
bill, said it doesn’t require a moose hunt but simply authorizes
the study. The final call would be made by the Natural Resources
Commission, which sets state hunting and fishing policy, he
The bill drew support from the Department of Natural Resources
and Environment and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. They
said 12 to 15 moose a year could be taken without causing overall
numbers to drop.
“Colorado established a sustainable hunt at populations
significantly less than the numbers in upper Michigan,” said Russ
Mason, chief of the DNRE’s Wildlife Division.
Peterson said the Upper Peninsula’s moose appear to have low
pregnancy rates. When combined with naturally occurring mortality,
it’s likely the hunts would reduce the overall population, he
“Sport hunting for most species is based on the assumption that
there’s some kind of harvestable surplus,” he said. “That is not
the case with moose.”
The DNRE bases its moose estimates in the western Upper
Peninsula on an aerial survey. The most recent, in 2009, put the
total at 420. The eastern Upper Peninsula has a smaller herd _
perhaps 100 but probably less, said Brian Roell, the DNRE’s moose
Scientists believe a number of factors probably have limited
growth of the herd, including an increase in numbers of whitetail
deer, which carry a brainworm parasite that is fatal to moose. The
warming climate also may be a problem. Moose are cold-weather
animals and the Upper Peninsula is on the southern fringe of their
comfort zone, Roel l said.
Peterson said he feared the advisory council would be unduly
influenced by the economic benefits of hunting instead of the
well-being of the moose. Supporters said they were confident all
views would get fair consideration.
Erin McDonough, executive director of the Michigan United
Conservation Clubs, said a well-managed hunt could raise awareness
of the moose’s presence and generate support for keeping the herd
healthy and preserving its habitat.
“We absolutely believe science should be the driver behind
this,” McDonough said. “If after the first year the science
indicates we need to take a step back, that’s what we will